||Aleksandra Gligoric (13)
||Chichi Ikwuazom (11)
Anja Malesevic (11)
|Assists||Gabriella Nobrega (17)||Audrey Cheng (36)|
|Aces||Angie Speweik (2)||Kaitlin Schultz (5)|
|Digs||Angie Speweik (13)||Audrey Cheng (12)|
|Blocks||Wies Hurkmans (4)||Kaitlin Schultz (4)|
NEW YORK — Registering a season-high 12 aces, including a combined 10 from its rookie class, the Columbia volleyball team got by St. Francis College in four sets (25-16, 23-25, 25-20, 25-14) Saturday evening in the Big Apple Battle at Levien Gymnasium.
Columbia (5-3) overpowered St. Francis (5-9) through the majority of the match. The Terriers did sneak away with the second set, but not before the Lions rallied back from 17-10 down to take a late lead. First-year Kaitlin Schultz posted a match-high five aces and fellow rookie Jamie Dailey added four more. Setter Audrey Cheng, another member of the first-year class, earned the start and tallied a season-high 36 assists with 12 digs for her first double-double. Cheng also added two aces to her performance.
“It was a great experience for Audrey to come in and run the offense,” said head coach Brie Katz. “She eased into it and started finding Anja and Chichi a little better. She had some really solid sets to the outside and it was a really positive thing to see out of tonight.”
The victory sets up a Big Apple Battle championship match on Sunday between Columbia and LIU Brooklyn (6-6). The two sides are both 2-0 in the tournament and are the only two undefeated teams remaining. The match takes place on the LIU campus at 4 p.m.
“It’s going to be great,” Katz added. “We’re so excited to play them. We love playing here at home, but we’re still going to be in New York. It’s a wonderful opportunity. We hope they bring their A game because we’re going to bring ours too. It’s going to be a great match.”
Columbia improved to 12-0 all-time against St. Francis. The local rivalry dates back to 1989, but Saturday night’s matchup was the first since 2011
The Lions started strong by jumping out to an early 10-5 lead in the opening set. Three straight aces by Dailey were part of a 6-0 run that bumped the lead to 20-11. Malesevic clinched the first with one of her set-high four kills, while the Lions hit .375 as a team.
St. Francis responded right away in the second by going up 5-1 and forcing an early Columbia timeout. The Lions called their second stoppage of the set down, 15-9, before falling behind, 17-10. That’s when the rally started, which included four aces by Schultz and one of junior Luciana Del Valle’s nine kills on the evening. It was back-and-forth the rest of the way until St. Francis scored three straight to earn two set points. Columbia saved the first, but SFC’s Taris Pittman was good on the next attack to level the match at a set apiece.
The 10-minute intermission served Columbia well, using an early 6-0 run with kills by Schultz and Malesevic to jump way in front, 12-4. SFC got back within a point on two occasions midway through, but a big block by Ikwuazom and Dailey gave the Lions the momentum to pull away. Malesevic served four straight points to extend the lead to 21-16 and Del Valle put down the kill to win the set.
Columbia came up with four blocks in the fourth set and held St. Francis to a -.094 hitting percentage to seal the match. Schultz was good for three of the team’s four rejections, while Dailey and Del Valle each put down a set-high three kills. After Aleksandra Gligoric brought SFC within three, 12-9, Columbia scored five of the next six points to gain a clear advantage and coasted to another home victory.